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Jude “Papaloko” Thegenus

2024 Heritage Award Winner


Multi-talented artist and Vodou Oungan (priest) Jude “Papaloko” Thegenus was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in 1964 but moved to the seaside town of Jacmel as a boy. Thegenus painted, sang, and danced from a young age, but he “felt the drum” at 12.  He began to study Vodou and play percussion in ceremonies during local festivities.  After settling in Miami in 1987, Thegenus founded Papaloko & Loray Mistik, a band that plays Vodou music as well as Vodou pop—a fusion of traditional Haitian instruments and rhythms with West African percussion, rock and roll, blues, and hip-hop. During performances, the group also presents ritual dances, prayers, body painting, and other religious arts that not only entertain but also educate the audience about Haitian culture.  The band has gained a reputation for being a late-night favorite at the Florida Folk Festival, often playing the Heritage Dance Stage on Saturday nights. Thegenus’ paintings and sculpture are eclectic and riveting, often focusing on the Vodou pantheon, Haitian history, and social issues.  In 1999, he founded Jakmel Art Gallery, which exhibits his work, as well as that of other local artists, and offers events and musical performances by Papaloko and Loray Mistik. The strength of Thegenus’ work undoubtedly derives not only from his talent but also from his powerful ties to Haitian arts and Vodou.